Mike Pence Congratulates West Point Grads

WEST POINT, New York—Vice President Mike Pence congratulated a diverse graduating class at West Point on Saturday.

Pence addressed the graduates of the U.S. Military Academy on behalf of President Donald Trump, and told them, “As you accept the mantle of leadership I promise you, your commander in chief will always have your back. President Donald Trump is the best friend the men and women of our armed forces will ever have.”

West Point cadets hug each other at the end of graduation ceremonies at the United States Military Academy, in West Point, N.Y., on May 25, 2019. (Julius Constantine Motal/AP Photo)

More than 980 cadets became U.S. Army second lieutenants in the ceremony at West Point’s football stadium.

Pence noted that Trump has proposed a $750 billion defense budget for 2020 and said the United States “is once again embracing our role as the leader of the free world.”

“It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life,” Pence said. “You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen. Some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere.

“Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

West Point cadets listen to Vice President Mike Pence speak during graduation ceremonies at the United States Military Academy, in West Point, N.Y., on May 25, 2019. (Julius Constantine Motal/AP Photo)

Pence spoke as the United States plans to send another 1,500 troops to the Middle East to counter what the Trump administration describes as threats from Iran; as the longest war in U.S. history churns on in Afghanistan; and as Washington considers options to support Venezuela’s interim president Juan Guaidó amid the country’s political upheaval. The administration is also depending more heavily on the military to deter migrants from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

The class was the most diverse in West Point’s history, and Pence said he wanted to acknowledge “the historic milestones that we’re marking today.”

West Point cadets hug each other at the end of graduation ceremonies at the United States Military Academy, in West Point, N.Y., on May 25, 2019. (Julius Constantine Motal/AP Photo)

The 2019 cadets included 223 women, 34 of whom are black. Both totals are all-time highs since the first female cadets graduated in 1980. The academy graduated its 5,000th woman Saturday.

The 110 African Americans who graduated were double the number from 2013.

Vice President Mike Pence stands for the national anthem during graduation ceremonies at the United States Military Academy, in West Point, N.Y., on May 25, 2019. (Julius Constantine Motal/AP Photo)

Pence said the graduates also included the academy’s 1,000th Jewish cadet.

“And as I stand before you today here at West Point I can’t help but think that First Lt. Edward J. Pence, looking down from glory, is finally impressed with his third son,” Pence said. “So thank you for the honor.”

The ceremony was Pence’s second visit to West Point and his first as commencement speaker.

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Author: The Associated Press

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